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Federal Court says it lacks jurisdiction to hear CSIS employee’s discrimination claim

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OTTAWA — A federal judge has tossed out a Canadian Security Intelligence Service employee’s discrimination lawsuit against the spy service, saying Sameer Ebadi should have followed the internal grievance procedures available to him.

In his newly released decision, Federal Court Justice Henry Brown said the court therefore lacks jurisdiction to address the claim filed by Ebadi, who uses a pseudonym due to the sensitive nature of his work.

Ebadi, a practising Muslim who fled to Canada from a repressive Middle Eastern country, began working as a CSIS analyst in the Prairie region 22 years ago. He is now on long-term disability leave.

His statement of claim, filed in January 2020, says he was passed over for promotion despite an excellent work record, and that he suffered bullying, discrimination, emotional and physical abuse and religious persecution from fellow employees.

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Among other things, his claim alleges employees would quickly open his office door when he was at prayer, smashing it into his body or head. “They would then feign surprise that Sameer was at prayer, but would laugh outside the door afterwards.”

Ebadi argued that CSIS has a history of protecting harassers from responsibility for their racially or religiously motivated behaviour.

He said internal CSIS processes could not be trusted to provide him with a fair hearing and to protect him against reprisals for bringing forward concerns.

“I have tried on multiple occasions, with varying levels of CSIS management, to address my well-founded issues of workplace harassment and discrimination,” Ebadi said in an affidavit filed with the court.

“With each effort, I was met with resistance and, what is worse, faced increased discriminatory treatment for blowing the whistle on my fellow employees and managers.”

Lawyers for the government filed a motion to have the case struck out, arguing the terms of Ebadi’s employment are subject to intelligence service procedures.

The availability of internal resolution processes preclude the Ebadi from initiating a civil action for matters that could be subject to a grievance or harassment complaint, they said.

At a hearing last month, counsel for Ebadi asked the judge to reject the government motion, saying CSIS management has created and perpetuated a culture of systemic racism, Islamophobia, harassment and reprisal.

Ebadi also contended that because he is challenging the adequacy of the CSIS grievance and harassment processes themselves, his claim is not barred by a section of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act that could prevent the court from getting involved.

In his decision, Brown noted that at no time in his career did Ebadi file a complaint under either the harassment policy or grievance procedure.

“He cannot now litigate in this Court the adequacy of procedures he himself chose never to follow.”

During the court hearing, John Kingman Phillips, co-counsel for Ebadi, pointed to remarks CSIS director David Vigneault made at a December 2020 meeting of the federal National Security Transparency Advisory Group.

Vigneault said he had acknowledged publicly and privately to employees “that, yes, systemic racism does exist here, and yes there is a level of harassment and fear of reprisal within the organization.”

Brown said in his decision that the statement — neither alone nor in tandem with the rest of the court record — constitutes an admission that CSIS is systemically racist, or that Ebadi is or was unable to obtain relief by way of grieving or complaining about the matters he alleges.

Further, Brown said, he is not persuaded the statement by Vigneault supports the notion the court should exercise any residual discretion it might have to accept jurisdiction over Ebadi’s action, notwithstanding the effect of the public sector labour law.

Counsel for Ebadi had no immediate comment on the decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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St-Onge urges provinces to accelerate efforts to make sports safer for athletes

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sports will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sports ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sports.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

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But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren’t in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Justice is a Privilege Reserved for the Few

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History is full of examples showing us that Justice is a privilege reserved for the few, the wealthy, politically and financially connected, in fact, those of the right colour or race depending on where and when this justice was to be dealt with. Justice must be earnt, and it expends a colossal cost. What do I mean?

When a justice system demands proof of your innocence, while viewing the accused as guilty until that proof surfaces, the system of justice seems to be blind to all but those with the ability to hire known lawyers and a defense team to point out any misunderstandings that arise. A Black Man with many priors stands before a judge, accused of violent crimes. Will such a man have the ability to raise money to get out of jail and hire a powerful legal team? If he is a financially well-off man perhaps, but if he is an “Average Joe”, the justice system swallows him up, incarcerating him while he waits for his trial, and possible conviction. While the justice system is supposed to be blind to financial, sexist, and racial coding, the statistics show White men often walk, and Black-Hispanic and men of color often do not. Don’t think so?

America’s Justice system has a huge penal population, well into the millions of citizens in public and private prisons across the land. According to Scientific America, 71% of those imprisoned are not white. So do you think these men and women got there because of their choices or did the system help to decide that while whites can be either excused, rehabilitated or found not endangering the greater society, “the others” are threats to the nation’s security and population?

White privilege is still prevalent within our system, with financial privilege a close second.

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The World was white, but now its really black(non-white)
Justice for all is never achieved, just verbatim.
What can justice do for the lowly man
while jails fill and are built anew continually?

When you are seen as an outsider always,
and the precious few escape societies’ hungry grasp.
Justice for all is the cry we all hear these days,
While the policeman stamps your future out at last.

Martin L says the Black Persons going to win this war,
and a war of attrition it truly has been.
Justice is a privileged and socially mobile thing,
leaving the many to pray to the spirit of Tyre Nichols,
asking what the hell can we do???

I walked through an airport recently with no problem and no questioning. Customs and border officers were busy getting into the face of many non-white travelers. To this very day, a non-white person flying anywhere with a long beard, and dressed like a Muslim could get you unwelcomed trouble. Being different will always create difficulties. Being out of your place in another financial-ethnic society will be a challenge. Race, financial and political privilege will forever be with us. The powerful will always be able to dance around the justice system’s rules and regulations. Why? Well, the justice system is an exclusive club, filled with lawyers and police. The administrators and enforcers of the system. Some other form of the judicial system is needed, with a firm root in community equality. Can our Justice System be truly blind to all influencers, but the laws of the land? Can victims of crime receive true justice, retribution in kind for the offenses carried out by criminals against them?

” In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect”(Jimmy Carter). Mutual respect of all actors in the play known as the Justice System, influenced, manipulated, and written by lawyers and academics. God help us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis

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British Columbia’s chief coroner released overdose figures for 2022, showing 2,272 residents died from toxic drugs last year. Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Here are some of the numbers connected to the overdose crisis:

189: Average number of deaths per month last year.

6.2: Average deaths per day.

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At least 11,171: Deaths attributed to drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

70: Percentage of the dead between 30 and 59 years old.

79: Percentage of those who died who were male.

65: Children and youth who have died in the last two years.

82: Percentage of the deaths where the toxic opioid fentanyl was involved.

73,000: People in B.C. who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

8.8: The rate that First Nations women are dying, is a multiple of the general population’s rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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